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The Dustbin Film Festival

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Sodbury Streetscape

The Dustbin Film Festival is organised by Jim Wilkie, who has kindly contributed the following article:

Although in alphabetical listings Chipping Sodbury comes close to Cannes in the list, the atmosphere at the Annual Chipping Sodbury Dustbin Film Festival, held each January, is very different.

The audience are considerably less glamorous and they are more likely to get excited by something with a fuel tank than a film star. Talking feedback from the audience is encouraged; since most of them also share an interest in old machinery, the audience can prove very knowledgeable.

For over 35 years we have specialised in rescuing discarded 16mm films - particularly documentaries featuring Agriculture, Shipping, Inland Waterways, Road Transport, Construction Plant, Agricultural Engineering, Aviation or Military Equipment.

These fields overlap into industrial and social history and nostalgia. Other people specialise in fiction and entertainment films. Although the equipment featured is no longer in production, the films can give watchers invaluable insights into the reasons a particular machine or technique was introduced at the time the film was commissioned. By 1980 it had become pretty unusual for new films to be sponsored.

So why is that relevant today? Most people can manage very well without knowing. However if you have a specialised interest, then such films represent an invaluable resource for research or to share with others with your particular interest.

How does a film survive? Mainly by good fortune or lucky chance. Someone, somewhere felt it was a shame to discard or burn a film despite being told it was obsolete. A film could be "rescued from the dustbin" several times before it reaches a collector who appreciates its interest. Sadly most such films have been destroyed. Often we will be showing the only surviving copy of a film.

The best way to enjoy these films in the company of a knowledgeable audience. After all, that is how they were intended to be seen. Hence the Annual Chipping Sodbury Dustbin Film Festival. Since the films are picked out by the audience from a pile of cans and boxes, nobody really knows in advance what will be shown.

Background to the Dustbin Film Festival

Over 60 years ago my late Father used to show 16mm films to farming audiences as part of his job. From then I became aware that some of these films featured agricultural machinery.

Around 35 years ago I realised that 16mm sponsored film was rapidly going out of use and that interesting old films were getting destroyed. By then my interests had expanded to include road transport, shipping, construction plant, aviation and some military subjects.

Rescued films are projected to audiences with a particular interest; so-called affinity groups. Typically we take more films than there will be time to screen, and the choice of the audience determines what is seen on the night.

To distinguish these from shows put on by more serious minded collectors they are collectively know as Dustbin Films Shows. The common feature is that most films were slung in a dustbin before being rescued.

This has two effects. I have never shown an identical programmes twice, which makes film shows more interesting and unpredictable for me as well. It sometimes means several years can pass before an audience first requests the screening of a particular film.

Other collectors are getting involved in rescuing films and in many cases it was their efforts that first ensured the survival of a particular title. Despite this I am very conscious of the fact that probably the majority of factual sponsored films have now disappeared totally and will never be seen again.

The main topics covered are: Agricultural machinery, Road Transport Construction Plant, Shipping, Motor Sport, Railways, Fire Fighting, Aviation, and some Military topics. Most of the films were made between 1935 and 1975. At the time the machinery featured was either newly introduced or at least in regular commercial use.

Get in touch

For more Information about the Annual Chipping Sodbury Dustbin Film Festival you can email or ring 01454 323109.

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